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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How To Name Legal Guardians For Kids

For parents, naming a legal guardian for your children can be the hardest estate planning decision to make. The guardian is the person that will raise your child(ren) if mom and dad both pass away or are incapacitated.

In her article “Choosing Legal Guardians for Your Children? A Mother’s Thoughts,” Maran Hanley says that many of the families she interviewed were having trouble selecting a guardian due to emotional reasons, including “guilt, fear, and the unknown.” 

Maran points out that naming a guardian is often a sticking point for parents. While some people are fortunate enough to have a good number of family members or friends to choose from, other people do not have that advantage.

According to her,
"One young family struggled selecting a guardian because neither parent had a sibling qualified for the responsibility of raising their children: one with serious medical struggles, and another with Autism Spectrum Disorder."
But guess what? That family still chose a legal guardian. They chose the kids’ maternal grandmother, “due to her familiarity with and love for the children,” as stated in the article.

Here we see the importance of deciding to select a legal guardian despite a setback. If you have a challenge of this kind also, you should not let that stop you from naming a guardian. This is because if you do not name a guardian for your child, the court will have to make a decision for you...and the judge does not know anything about who you may or may not have wanted to choose!

What about naming a guardian that has their own children? The article mentioned that some parents worry that the guardian may “prioritize a natural loyalty to their own kids” or take a different parenting style with your children (more strict or more lax). 

Yet as Maran said so herself,

And you, as a parent, have to make that choice.

Maran disclosed how her family went about their selection process for a guardian:

  1. My husband and I came to a consensus about our most important family values.
  2. We listed all possible candidates from the pool of family and friends.
  3. We discussed each candidate relative to our family values and made the best decision we could with the information available and the beliefs we hold important.
She also shared other ideas that have helped other couples: spreadsheets, lists, discussions, surveys, understanding emotional block, and connecting with friends, among others. You can follow what Maran and her husband did, try these others things and find what works for you.

When you’ve tried everything and still have a very hard time deciding, let me tell you what I said a few years back on my blog “What To Do If You Can't Decide Who To Name As Guardians For Your Kids”:

If you don't decide, a Judge will.

Even your worst choice would be better than that, right?

So go on and make that choice.

Here’s another important thing other couples might overlook--Your role does not end on just choosing the legal guardian. You have to formalize your decision.

Your choice of guardian and other specific wishes regarding the care that your children would get after you are gone would be good as nothing when you don’t put it in legal writing. Talk to your lawyer and legally document that decision.

For even more, like why you should name short-term emergency guardians for children, click the link!

Golowin Legal works with many parents of young children. As part of the estate planning process, we ensure that parents have named emergency and permanent guardians for minor children. Call us today at (614) 453-5208 to schedule an meeting. Visit our website for more information on Estate Planning for Parents in Columbus, Ohio.

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